The first-ever business forum at Berkeley focused on the world’s second-largest continent—and second-fastest-growing economic region—will take place at Haas on Saturday.
MBA students organized the Africa Business Forum to fill a gap at the school, where students have long held regional business conferences focused on Asia and Latin America.
"Our vision is to make Berkeley-Haas the premier destination for the development of innovative business solutions to Africa's challenges, and a home for visionaries who want to develop these solutions," says Oseyi Ikuenobe, MBA 15, one of the event organizers.
They chose the theme, "Africa: The Next Frontier For Mobile Technology," to resonate with the larger Berkeley community.
“We didn’t have to look far to find our theme,” says Serge Ouedraogo, MBA 15. “Mobile is where everything is happening in Africa—when you talk about access, it’s through mobile devices. As a business school, we should not be missing this emerging market.”
The forum is not only a first for Haas, but for the larger Berkeley campus as well, organizers believe. Conferences and panels have focused on politics and policy, development, and advocacy, but never business. But given the growth forecasts for the continent, that’s likely to change.
A few stats:
- For 2015, Kenya has the world’s 3rd-fastest growing economy, behind only China and the Philippines, according to an analysis by Bloomberg. Nigeria has the 6th fastest-growing GDP.
- Only about 16 percent of Africa is currently online; the connected population is expected to grow to about 50 percent by 2025.
- Africa’s middle class is expected to double over the next ten years.
- Sub-Saharan Africa is expected to be the global leader in growth of mobile usage over the next seven years
- Kenya, Nigeria, and Ghana have emerging Silicon-Valley-type tech ecosystems.
Gathering of Big Thinkers
In the face of such rapid growth, what will Africa look like in ten years? That’s the central question of the symposium, to be explored by entrepreneurial speakers and panelists who are pioneering a range of innovative ventures, as well as in a hands-on business-model-design session for attendees.
Sophia Bekele, founder and CEO of DotConnectAfrica—which has advocated for .africa domain names—will give the keynote address. Panelists include Shashi Buluswar, co-founder and executive director the Institute for Globally Transformative Technologies at Lawrence Berkeley National Lab; Stephen Ozoigbo, CEO of the African Technology Foundation, Sarah Kunst, venture partner at Future Perfect Ventures; Twitter developer advocate Bear Douglas, who will talk about Twitter's Digits—a free mobile app authentication framework suited for emerging markets; and Kevin Schuster, growth director for VOTO Mobile, a Ghana and U.S.-based enterprise working to amplify disenfranchised voters’ voices through mobile phones. See the full speaker list.
Organizers expect a crowd of about 70 people, including students from Haas and other schools, and working professionals. The group has also been marketing the event at meet-up groups focused on African business.
The event will be held from 8:45 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. May 2 in the Wells Fargo Room. Click here to register. Follow the forum on Twitter: @HaasAfrica.